31 May 2007

The Poppies Have Popped

The first poppy has peeked its head and has popped for the 2007 season. I was so excited that it chose to make its appearance this morning that I called the kids and Wifey to abandon their breakfasts and come to the window to admire it.

1st poppy of 2007

Sigh. I love poppies.

None of the poppies I winter sowed survived. Not because they didn't germinate, but um, because I failed to take off the top of the container when it got unusually hot one day early in the spring and I cooked 'em good. Real good. Totally to a burnt crisp.

In other garden news, my tomatoes are thriving. They survived the frost and are loving their digs in my new lasagna garden. I can almost taste the warm tomato sandwiches and pots of tomato sauce.

tomatoes in new digs

I also tried my hand yesterday at an annual flower arrangement. It actually took me nearly an hour to put this arrangement together. Once I saw the ornamental kale which I've always wanted to work with but never had, the rest of the arrangement was put together to compliment it. I like it. And, that's what matters.


30 May 2007

Finding Bella and Bubaloo - Prelude

It was around this time last year that we found Bella and Bubaloo. I knew the moment that I saw their photos that these were our kids. Call it gut instinct, mother's intuition, a feeling or whatever you like, but I knew that these kids would be our kids.

What I wasn't prepared for was the journey to become the adoptive parent of these two children. From the time we first found out about them, to the time we first met them, it took nine months. The same amount of time that it takes to carry a baby to term was the same amount of time it took to make us moms to these two children.

I started this blog a year ago and didn't make a post until this winter. The purpose of this blog was to originally chronicle our adoption process. It never served that purpose and has now morphed into something entirely different. Instead of chronicling this adventure in real-time, I'm going to write a handful of posts to recap it.

28 May 2007

Splish Splash Gardening

After months of hemming and hawing - reality check, it was at most two months - plants for the front garden have been selected, placed and planted. It was a cloudy, raining morning which was perfect for transplanting.

After facilitating the munchkins cooking the entire family a breakfast of champions, which was pancakes of course, Wifey and I headed out to the garden. This is where what we started with at 9am.

blank slate

And here, just behind the iris and day lillies you can spy upon the mock orange that was planted earlier this month.

blank slate with mock orange

We placed out the plants and got to work. We had five shrubs to plant - 3 emerald gaiety euonymus, 1 blue danube juniper and 1 royal purple smokebush.

ready for planting

Wifey took the lead on digging the holes, while I took the lead on transplanting the shrubs and weeding elsewhere in the garden. It was running quickly and efficiently, until we hit hole number three. This hole has been termed the hole from hell. We've got rocky, clay soil, and the compaction near the foundation from the fall waterproofing isn't joyous to work in.

I think it took Wifey about 10-15 minutes to dig this much out. Note how she's standing with her full weight on the shovel and nothing is moving.

hole from hell

When we got to the fifth, and final hole, Wifey smelled gas. Well, in actuality, we'd been smelling gas upon occasion at the side of the house since last November. That's when the yahoos who were waterproofing the foundation broke the gas line (and they'd even had a locate done) and we came home to a house with no heat since no one bothered to call us to let us know about the snafu. Because of the rain, we were able to see the air bubbles escaping from the tiny gas leak at the connection joint.

I'm thankful that no one was ever hurt. I'm also thankful that the leak was before the meter and we haven't been paying for all that wasted gas!

The lady with the gas company was quite comical. She asked Wifey how long she'd been smelling gas for. When Wifey told her since last fall, the customer service representative responded, "Um, Ma'am, next time you smell gas you should call us RIGHT AWAY."

So we kept on planting until the gas company showed up.

Here I am measuring up the purple smokebush. I also noticed that you can see my underwear in this photo. I've always been a bit disdainful of people who bend over and reveal their underwear. Who knew that all of this time, I had been one of those people.


Relationships are about compromise, and apparently, gardens are too. Wifey had really wanted a juniper, and so I worked a blue danube juniper into the mix. I had really wanted a smokebush, and Wifey wanted to get rid of a tree that had been knocked by the bobcat during fall construction.

You can see it was a win-win situation.

bye bye tipping over tree

And finally, the planting was done.

finished, no mulch

I really enjoy the pairing of the blues and burgundy colours. During the plant selection process, the golden barberry lost out to the euonymus. There's still a touch of the golden yellow tones through the mock orange. I cannot wait to see what it looks like next year when it fills out and I can place some more plantings in front.

smokebush and juniper

Next, we laid down some newspaper and a couple inches of mulch. This should hopefully keep some of the weeds down and assist in our wild violet eradication project.

planted and mulched

24 May 2007

Coffee Grinds in the Raised Bed

Last weekend, I started putting some compostables in the second raised bed. After spending part of my morning driving around collecting coffee grinds from two local establishments, this is what found its way into the first layer.

coffee comparison

For a little close up.

Sample #1.


Sample #2


I'm not going to provide commentary, as the photos provide food for your own narrative imagination.

23 May 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Coolest Dude of All?

Hair makes a man. Or rather, it's just been discovered that a mod hawk can turn a 9-year-old into the coolest dude on the playground.

It was time for a haircut this past weekend, and Wifey and I convinced Bubaloo that a little something more, something a little spikey in the middle that would deviate from the regular sheep-shearing of his head would be a little bit better. And, cooler. He agreed to let us try out a tiny faux hawk.

While I recognize that the mod hawk is a little dated, and that I pined after a girl with a mod hawk during grad school which was over 3 years ago now, this is a fun and manageable haircut for a kid.

In Bubaloo's own words, his hair has transformed his life. This kid, Landon, who is apparently awesome cause he knows how to do a back flip, played with Bubaloo at school and actually thinks he's cool (and now, not just cause of the hair). The hair was an 'in' to building a friendship that he had started in the winter.

When he was playing by himself earlier this week at the play structure, I caught him entertaining himself in the mirror. He was moving and grooving while checking out his do. He was making googly eyes like a love bird to himself.

Hair, whether it's for girls or boys, plays a big role in self-esteem and concept. Hair is social capital.

Bubaloo has
been walking with his head higher, his shoulders straighter and has been strutting around more comfortable in his own skin since his haircut. He hasn't got in a single fight, has been controlling his temper, working better with his peers and actually is looking forward to school. He's not being teased.

I don't know how long the mod hawk infused confidence will last. My only complaint is that ever since the hair transformation, Bubaloo has ceased to blow me kisses from the school bus in the morning.

22 May 2007

Brothers & Sisters

It was noted by social workers when Bella and Bubaloo went into care that they had an unusual sibling relationship. What they noted was unusual was that there didn't appear to be a relationship. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Other than acknowledging in a matter of fact way that they were indeed related, there didn't seem to be any other strong bond or connection to one another.

Literature on adoption and sibling groups, notes that siblings who have been raised together in circumstances that would cause them to come into care typically have tight bonds and closeness. The eldest child often becomes parentified as the caregiver for the younger siblings. The children learn to rely on each other, have an acute understanding of the other that comes from shared experiences. They are each other's family. And most often, the one thing siblings request when they come into care is that they be placed together.

Since Bella and Bubaloo have become our children, we've watched this sibling relationship develop and grow. We saw snips of sister and brother interaction from the beginning, at least in terms of knowing the other, triggers to set the other one off, being wary of the other's behaviour which would have got them in trouble in the past.

In part, we think that this sibling relationship has had time to grow because for the first time in their lives they are the only two kids in the house. With their foster parents, they were two of five children living in the house in addition to daycare kids. When they were shuffled from relative to relative, there were always cousins and other family members to contend with.

Instead of playing by themselves, or asking us to entertain them individually, Bella and Bubaloo now spend much of their free time playing fantastical, imaginary games together. Or, they ride bikes, go exploring, play nintendo or webkins. They've become playmates and friends. And, even when other friends are over, they tend to all play together.

As part of this blossoming sibling relationship, Bella and Bubaloo decided to have a "camp out" this weekend. This "camp out" took place in Bella's room. She refused to share her double bed with her brother, and instead opted to have him create a sleeping area on the floor beside her.

Bubaloo, wanting so badly to not sleep alone, was delighted with this option and bounced up and down with excitement.

Finally after the chatter died away, they both fell asleep.

As Wifey and I retired for the night, we peeked in on the sibling duo. Somehow Bubaloo had managed to work his way off the floor and into his sister's bed. He must have batted his eyelashes and played a sympathy card.

But, Bella still managed to retain the upper hand. Sleeping perpendicular to her, and about halfway down the bed, Bubaloo was dead asleep and Bella's leg was firmly planted across his face.

17 May 2007

This Year Meets Last Year

While I've been spending a lot of time working on the side garden/veggie garden project, I haven't much discussed the reclaiming of the front garden.

Past - May 2006

front garden

side angle of the front garden

Present - May 2007

one year later, front of house

This one-year-later photo is taken about two weeks earlier in the gardening season and the front lawn hasn't filled out quite as much.

We've gotten rid of the pine tree through an "accident" with a bobcat. The foundation planting of evergreens and an unknown shrub was also a casualty of the foundation waterproofing, as were many of the plants in the mid-section of the garden. Slowly, but surely, we're going to be filling this garden back in and coming up with some sort of plan.

I've planted a mock orange to the left of the front stairway and a lilac to the left near the fence. It's going to take several years for them to grow and fill out.

I'm contemplating a dwarf burning bush for the left front of the house, and some other small shrubbery or large perennials for the centre underneath the window.

Rain Reprieve

The rain rolled in on Tuesday and I've been able to temporarily turn my attention from outdoor to indoor projects - primarily cleaning a house that hasn't properly been cleaned in a few weeks.

The garden project is looking to be in pretty good shape and we've made lots of progress.

First off, I purchased 1x8 western red cedar from Home Depot, where they also kindly cut the pieces to length. I had tried to find a local lumber yard in search of a lower price, but where I stumbled was in actually locating a lumber yard. Home Depot sold the wood at $10 a board and when I found out that Rona was selling the same wood at $15 a board, I thought I had a deal.

stacked wood

Using these brackets from Lee Valley, I built the first level of each of the three raised beds. Frankly, this was the easiest wood construction project I've ever completed. Simply pre-drill your holes and screw in the brackets.

3 beds

Our initial plan had been to build 3 beds, with three levels each. Once we had the second level stacked on, it gave us a raised bed depth of 16 inches, over top of another 4-5 inches of topsoil , which is covers the old gravel driveway. We tested what a two level high would look like versus the three level, and were sold with the two level.

The two level bed should give our veggies sufficient root depth. And, we always have the option in the future to add the third level.

This turned out to be an excellent decision as I decided to fill the first bed full of lasagna garden goodness, to give it 2-3 weeks to cook, and managed to deplete all of my organic materials reserve. What we have in this bed is a layer of newspaper, covered with alternating layers of leaves, composted manure, coffee grounds, sphagnum moss, half finished compost, some grass clippings and topsoil.

raised lasagna bed

The other two beds were built up to a second level, and this weekend, I will be working on digging them in, leveling them off, and scraping up some more organic materials. I had hoped to have the second bed filled by now as I've got a bunch of veggies to start from seed.

Three beds

We also purchased this fabulous rain barrel and have it installed, albeit incorrectly. I wanted to get in in before the week of rain so it could fill up. There's about 1/2 a barrel full now and the water is dirty, dirty, dirty. I think it's time we clean out our gutters. This weekend will also be a great time to fix the downspout and have the barrel installed properly.

rain barrel

This is what the side yard looks like right now. I've contacted two contractors so far about building the new step for the house and a fence and neither have bothered to show up at our arranged meeting times.

side garden as of May 17

I've been itching to plant my tomatoes out for the past week and have held off. I also made a tentative mental plan to get them into their bed this weekend. But my gut tells me not to. It tells me I should wait even longer. And, this week Weather Canada has, too.

It's been very, very chilly here, near the freezing mark, and tonight we have a definite frost warning in effect. May 6 is the supposed "frost free" mark for our fair city. The gardeners' rule of thumb in our zone, or so I'm told, is the Victoria Day weekend. I think I'm not going to risk my two month growing from seed project and give it one more weekend.

15 May 2007

Parented Out

The last week has been the most challenging, trying, exhausting and difficult week in parenting Bella and Bubaloo thus far. We're tired. We're frustrated. We're losing our wits. And, we're on the verge of feeling defeated.

In the last 24 hours, we've become caught in a tunnel of endless consequences. There doesn't seem to be an end and it seems that more bad behaviour and poor choices only net the same bad behaviour and poor choices.

Bubaloo was caught stealing snacks from his classmates lunches last week at school. His teacher indicated that she though it had been going on for about a week. As we began to untangle the web of stories with him, it turns out he had been stealing for much, much longer. About a month and a half.

It all started when he lost his full lunch and lunch bag at school. Instead of telling a teacher, or asking to call home to get a new lunch, he decided to steal to feed himself. This started him on a bandwagon of thievery that only escalated with time. By the time he was caught, he had found a partner in crime and was up to two snacks a day.

The consequence we handed out was that he needed to use his allowance to replace all of the snacks he had stolen from his classmates and apologize to his class for stealing from them. He said to Wifey at the grocery store when purchasing the snacks, "Boy, do I look foolish."

Bella verbally threatened a classmate last week as well by telling him that she would "cut his body up into a whole bunch of pieces and squish them like ladybugs." When called upon by a teacher for this behaviour, she red-faced denied that she ever said that. By the time she got home, her memory had returned, and she admitted the threat.

We discussed how words of anger can be threatening because people are fearful of the action. We talked about better ways to deal with anger and frustration. And, Bella felt that an appropriate consequence would be to write an apology letter.

The apology letter was written and delivered on Monday. Only, she didn't really apologize for what she said. And, that got the other kid more upset and the teacher was called in to mediate the conflict.

This was the tip of the iceberg that began last week. Since then, the pile of offenses has been racking up at an exponential rate.

Bubaloo was sent home from school yesterday for swearing in the classroom - and don't get us started on this for sending a kid home for uttering motherfucker while playing an army game with a friend during indoor recess in the classroom.

Bella missed gymnastics last night because she got distracted by a comic while getting ready to leave for the activity.

Bubaloo ran through the house with muddy shoes after I had spent the whole day cleaning the house and had asked them to take them off.

Bella wasn't ready to go to school this morning because again she was reading a comic.

Ugh, I can't even remember what else has been testing my patience and anger threshold.

Schools are hypervigilant today. Kids' programs are hypervigilant. In turn, I feel like I'm becoming this hypervigilant parent.

Generally, we don't have major behavioural issues with our kids at home. They listen, they're respectful for the most part, and they don't act out in the home the way they do at school.

Writing all this down is cathartic. This looks ridiculous on paper. It's the small, silly, minutiae that's gotten me so riled.

10 May 2007

Quashing Santa

Yesterday in the car, Bella asked me if Santa was real.

It’s May. She truly believes that dragons, faeries and witches are real. Who would have thought that the existence of our mythological holiday friends would questioned in the off season?

She’s also 11. Which is a little old to still unquestioningly believe in the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and the like. But fantasy has always been her escape, a place she inhabits because the world hasn’t been good to her, and I didn’t want to be the one to have to crush that alternate plane of mental imagining.

Her 9 year-old brother doesn’t really believe in Santa. But what he does believe in is the relationship between Santa and presents. He knows about the causal relationship that if he outwardly shows or says he believes in Santa, there will still be presents for him under the tree on Christmas morning. He’s too afraid to say it’s not real, which might make it cease to exist. It’s a big gamble he’s not quite yet willing to take.

Bella asked me if Santa was real. I asked her what she thought (aka, brilliant parental strategy of deflection). She again asked if Santa were real and told me I had to tell her the truth. So I did.

She got really mad it me. Like it was all my fault. Like I had somehow been keeping this big, dark secret that every other kid in her class knew for an eternity. Like the first thing I should have told her when we adopted her three months ago was that Santa wasn’t real.

Apparently, she wants me to start a mental notebook of all the things adults should tell kids between the ages of 0-11 and lay it on her all at once. I'm sure that will go smashingly well.

(Addendum: On Sunday night we got to the second last chapter of Superfudge by Judy Blume. This chapter is all about how Peter pretends to write letters to Santa because his younger brother still believes in Santa. And by the end, it turns out that neither Peter nor Fudge believe in Santa and the parents also verify that Santa isn't real. Why isn't there any warning labels on the book!!! Funny thing was that Bella sat with her fingers plugging her ears repeating I'm not listening cause Santa's real.)

08 May 2007

R.I.P Black Prince

Thanks to my stupidity, and a little help from the poochie, this summer's crop of Black Prince tomatoes have been rendered nearly extinct.

Left on the lower landing for some sun and wind to start the hardening off process, the dog saw us outside through the window, wanted to play and proceeded to dance on top of the tomatoes in excitement.

I knew that was not a good place to leave the tomatoes. But it was the easiest, and in the moment, easy prevailed.

Now nearly two months of work has gone down the tubes. I think only one of the four plants is salvageable.

Oh me, oh my. This sucks. Big time.

Operation Move Dirt Continues

Operation "move dirt" continued this weekend and into the week. Eleven cubic yards of dirt and two cubic yards of pine mulch later, the new garden space is primed.

Today was supposed to be my day of rest as the forecast called for rain. It was only supposed to be a day of rest from outdoor projects, as the fridge is looking bare and heaps of shedded dog fur are threatening to over take the furniture. My upper body is begging for rest. It's sunny outside, however, and I'm torn.

This picture was taken on Sunday when operation "move dirt" was 3/4 of the way complete.


The dirt pile also was transformed into an army base by Bubaloo, complete with lots of tunnels and little army people. We've never actually encourged him to play army or any other sort of war game. He's just got this inclination for it and has constructed a whole elaborate fantasy world around it.

Each weekend he dons his skateboarding helmet, Wifey's rubber boots, and keeps his PJs on to run around and play. We just clued in that the reason he loves his skateboarding helmet so much is because he pretends it's an army helmet. He's an army man on his bike; he's an army man while playing basketball.

For a kid who isn't even allowed to have a play gun, a water gun or toys with guns, we find it a bit bizarre how every inanimate object gets transformed into a gun - anything from a stick, pole or branch to the leg of a barbie doll. The hose becomes a flame thrower. A big ball of dirt becomes a bomb.

We've given up trying to make army "bad," outlawing and re-directing him to other activities. In part, I think the fascination with army play comes from the fact that the last school he attended while living with his foster parents was located on an army base, where the majority of kids had army parents, and army play was part of daily school yard behaviour.

Instead, we set parameters of safety and separating how we play army in pretend-land from how we act in real life.

To break up army play, Wifey wheeled Bubaloo around in the wheelbarrow as she moved dirt.

(Note: I put that wheelbarrow together all by myself on Friday).

He'd climb in, get covered with dirt, get dumped out and covered with dirt, and spent the whole time doubled over in giggles and begging for more...and to go faster...and to be buried under more dirt.

Wifey was happy to comply. I was the killjoy who had to keep asking them both to stop jumping and compressing the dirt. All day long.

Bubaloo in dirt

And, yesterday marked the day of finishing touches. I hauled out more of the compacted dirt, did some more grading and then heaped mulch on top of it all.

operation move dirt complete

All that's left to do now is to mulch the front garden and back bed, purchase and install the rain barrel, hire a contractor to build the fence and new steps, purchase wood and build new veggie beds....

04 May 2007


The marathon gardening project of 2007 has begun with the arrival of dirt.

Here's where we last saw the old driveway. One final photo before the arrival of dirt.

Goodbye driveway

Bella and Bubaloo were at school when the dump truck of dirt arrived. Being that I was pretty amazed by the process of dumping 12 cubic yards of dirt, I really do wish the kids could have been home to see it.

12 cubic yards of topsoil

This is what 12 cubic yards of dirt looks like. I measured and calculated. The person at the dirt place calculated with my measurements, but I'm not quite sure that we have enough dirt to achieve a 5 inch depth.

Then, it was time to get the much. I opted for shredded pine mulch and now our driveway smells like a christmas tree forest.

mulch #1

I rented a truck and unloaded not one, but two loads of mulch all by myself! This is what a truck full of mulch looks like.

truck full of mulch

I'm pretty proud of that. Although, my body doth protest this morning. And it protests even more when I tell it we have to go purchase a wheel barrow to start moving the dirt and mulch.